The general public’s views and opinions towards tax and public spending are hardening, with people increasingly seeing themselves as paying too much tax in a system that is becoming progressively less fair, according to a survey conducted by progressive think tank Per Capita.

But it would seem that the public doesn’t know how good they have it, with Australia’s tax-to-GDP ratio falling to long-term lows in the last few years. Australians now pay the fifth lowest tax burden of the 34 OECD countries, higher only than South Korea, the US, Mexico and Chile.

The third annual Per Capita Tax Survey found that perception, rather than concrete fact, is the main driver of attitudes.

According to Per Capita’s Executive Director David Hetherington, the changing attitudes can be attributed to the Federal Opposition’s highly successful ‘big new tax’ and ‘cutting the waste’ campaigns.

Mr Hetherington grouped the results under four main themes, the first being that large numbers of Australians want increased spending on frontline services, such as health (84 per cent), education (76 per cent) and social security (42 per cent).

“Secondly, Australians think the tax system is becoming less fair, both at the individual and community level, and are less supportive of public spending. Fully one half of those interviewed stated they paid too much tax, up six percentage points since 2010. Fewer people believe that low-income earners are overtaxed. Over the same period, support for greater public spending has fallen by 11 percentage points,” Mr Hetherington said.

The third theme is a lack of understanding of the nation’s tax system, with over half of respondents stating that petrol prices have risen as a result of the carbon tax, half saying they received no compensation and nearly 60 per cent of respondents saying Australia is a high-taxing, big government country when our tax levels are amongst the lowest in the developed world.

“The final theme is the cognitive dissonance that sees respondents hold contradictory views about tax and spending. People want more public services and investments, but they also want to pay less tax. High-income earners who say they pay too much tax simultaneously believe the rich should pay more tax,” Mr Hetherngon said.

The full report can be found here